Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thing 59: Reading Rewards

"It's summertime and the living is easy." And, oh, soooo easy for children to forget those reading skills they honed during the school year. Now that summer is upon us, we as parents, librarians, and educators fret about how to prevent "summer learning loss." After spending the school year advancing reading and study skills, how can we get kids to keep reading and engaged in pursuits to retain their literacy? 
Libraries offer summer reading programs, but not all children are able to get to the library regularly. What to do? Michelle Skamene, a Montreal, Canada mother who is a web designer by trade, took a pro-active approach and decided to challenge her children to match the amount of time they spent in front of TV and computer screens with an time reading books. Her husband suggested that a web site for tracking time spent reading might be helpful to her challenge. So Reading Rewards and its French language counterpart were born. And, thanks to the social web, we can all use it.

The Reading Rewards website is very easy to use. Kids set up a free,  private account which must be approved by a parent. Families  determine together what rewards should be for a set amount of  reading. Kids log in periodically to record their time spent  reading and earn RR Miles for their reading (RR miles (think similar  to airline miles) that must be validated by a parent. But the site goes far beyond tracking reading time. Users can also see what other kids their age are reading, write their own reviews, and get reading  recommendations by age from a variety of sources, including the  National Education Association, Coretta Scott King Book Awards, recommendations from Parenthood.com, Parents Choice Foundation, Cybils, www.readkiddoread.com, Publisher's Weekly Books of the Year, Newbery Medals and Honors, Caldecott, and American Library Association.

 Reading Rewards can be used on an individual basis, of course, but there is the ability to create groups, too, making it possible for teachers or school librarians to manage a group from a single account.

readingrewardsgrouppageillus4Creating a group couldn't be easier. From the 'Groups' tab, click on 'Create' to set up a new group. Give your group a specific name that your kids will be able to find. Put in the start and end dates. Click on 'Create.' You will then be able to add the details for your group and put in a description and rules, if any. If you have a reading target (in minutes), you can enter it as well. Click on 'Apply changes.' You can also set up a default reward for the kids in the group (optional). When you are ready, click 'Publish'.

Once your group is published, just let your kids know how to find it. Tell them to register on Reading Rewards, and find your group in  the 'Groups' tab. Once they've found it, all they need do is click on 'Join' to become a member and start tracking their reading.

readingrewardsscreenshotgroupcloseup3 Rewards can be set up as a group or by child since some kids need more encouragement than others. You can click on 'Change reward' next to each child's name and modify their reading targets. By clicking on the smiley face next to each child's name in your group, you can send little messages to encourage them. These message appear in their news feed, on their public page.

If you want to have a list of 'Books I Recommend' appear on your group's page, simply click on the 'Add book' button and find the books on their Amazon-driven website. More about this can be found in the slide show. You can learn more and keep up with Reading Rewards on Facebook, too.

Think about how you and those you know might use Reading Rewards to keep those kids reading skills in tip top shape over the long hot summer or anytime for that matter.

Linda J. Wadman, Director
North Country Library Cooperative

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